Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which she battled for with the EU for the past two years, has again brought her government a humiliating loss. Defeated by a margin of 149 votes, the deal is being described as “dead” by the opposition. A vote on whether MPs want to leave the EU without a deal is next, but the future beyond that remains very unclear.
Could we see another snap election?
According to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are held every five years.
However, there are some exceptions to the rule: if the House of Commons votes a two-thirds majority to hold one, or if a no-confidence motion results in no government formed in Commons.
We’ve seen one of these examples recently, when Theresa May called a snap election in 2017, losing her the overall Tory majority in the Commons, a decision which haunts her premiership to this day.
READ MORE: How did your MP vote on the Brexit deal?
Now, Mrs May could decide the best way out of this deadlock would be to call for another early election.
She’d then ask MPs to vote on whether they agree, and if she wins two-thirds, the UK would have to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50, and preparations for an election would begin.
If Mrs May won the election, it would give her the political mandate for her deal.
And if she lost, it’d be someone else’s turn to have a shot at getting the country out of the Brexit stalemate.
Sources within Westminster have indicated this option is more likely to happen than not.
Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the 1922 committee and a supporter of Mrs May, told Sky News: “I can’t see how we look past a general election if a deal doesn’t get through this evening.”
“I’m not saying I want a general election, I’m saying it will happen.
“We can’t go on like this. You cannot have a Parliament that can’t come to a decision.”
He added: “If the House of Commons cannot compromise, then you have to have a general election and try and get a mandate.
“That is not me demanding a general election, that is just the way our constitution works.”
Even if the government declines to call a general election, we could still see one.
The Labour Party still has the power to table a motion of no confidence in the Conservative government as a whole, just as it did after the last vote.
A vote of no confidence like this allows MPs to vote on whether they want the current government to continue.
If the government loses and no-one manages to put forward an alternative government which gains the support of the Commons, an election must be held.
How long would it take to organise an election?
The earliest possible date for a general election would be 25 working days after it was voted through the House of Commons.
With only 17 days to go (and only 13 of those working days) left until Brexit, this wouldn’t be possible within the current timeframe.
If this occurred, an extension to – or retraction of – Article 50 must first be secured.